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Dating Triumphs and Tragedies
by Nicole Roberge

Birthday Presents and Dating:
How Old Are You Now?

I recently celebrated a birthday. Which one, I won’t tell. But it was a birthday. I don’t feel any older. Actually, I’ve never been that into birthdays. Sure, when I was little, it was “Queen for a Day,” but now, it’s just another day where I have to remember to change the digit in my response when people ask how old I am.

But enough about my birthday…it’s okay you didn’t send gifts. I’m over it. Really.

Birthdays when dating are a tricky situation…for the couple at least. It’s always funny to hear friends in a new relationship say, “I’m glad my birthday comes first, that way I can judge what to get him for a present by what he gets me.” Yes, that is convenient, because it can be difficult, and a daunting process, to be the first one to purchase the other a gift. Once you see what the other is willing to get you, you can gauge what to get him or her from there.


But what if you have only been dating for a brief amount of time, and then it’s his birthday? What then? What is the general protocol for birthday presents and dating? If you’ve only been on a few dates and get him an extravagant gift, then that would be going overboard and might scare him off. If you don’t acknowledge his birthday at all, he might be a little bummed. Maybe he might not be expecting a gift at all, seeing as he still doesn’t know you that well.

There are several different scenarios, and it will depend on the guy and his personality. Maybe he already had plans with his friends, in which case you can call, wish him a happy birthday, which he will appreciate, and tell him you’d like to take him out for a drink or dinner. Chances are, he will appreciate the gesture and then jump at the chance for another date. You’ve not only avoided the “what do I get him?!” scramble at the mall, but earned yourself bonus points from him, and also approval from his friends…once he raves about you to them at the bar.

What if it’s your birthday? Hmm…awkward. So you met Sam last month, he’s great, you’ve been on a few dates, and it’s your birthday next week. On a Wednesday. You’re going out with the girls on Friday to celebrate because everyone is working late, and yeah, you’re not into birthdays either. But you don’t want to spend it alone. With your cat. Do you tell Sam in advance? Just blurt out randomly: “My birthday’s Wednesday! Yay!” He might think you’re weird. Or will you end up on the phone with him Wednesday and throw yourself a pity party by saying, “Yeah it’s my birthday and you didn’t even say Happy Birthday. Jerk.” And then he’ll say he didn’t know, and you’ll get mad and tell him he could have asked when it was, and that’ll be your first fight, and you won’t make up, because you just flipped out on him. Click.

So you could always flash him your license and obnoxiously point to your date of birth, but the proper thing to do is just tell him, if you really want to, but you can do it a subtle way. Tell him you’d love to go out next week, but your friends are taking you out Friday for your birthday, so is there another day that would work for him? Then he’ll say, “When’s your birthday?” And you’ll say, “Wednesday.” He’ll say, very cutely of course, “Well, what are you doing Wednesday?” See, magic, I have it all planned out for you. I’m expecting wedding invitations, I hope you know. Even though you blew it with the birthday presents.

But again, it’s not the presents that really matter. Sure, once you get into a bit of an established relationship, you’ll do the whole presents, and then you can just hope that your birthday doesn’t fall first. Then you can freak out and maybe drill his friends a little, but of course by then, you should know him well enough to know what to get him. But when you’re just starting to date, the most you can hope for is a little quality time with him. It makes changing that digit not such a scary thing when you have someone to take your mind off of it. As long as he doesn’t have the waiters bring you a cake and then sing, “Are you one, are you two, are you…”

Dating Triumphs and Tragedies is published every Sunday by Online Dating Magazine columnist Nicole Roberge. She can be reached at

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